On 22 December prosecutors at the Federal Supreme Court opened the trial of an Emirati who they accuse of collecting funds for a charity affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood. The authorities allege the defendant is a member of the group, which Abu Dhabi has previously designated a terrorist organisation. The Government claims that the money was collected by the accused from local donors who were unaware of the charity’s secret ties to the Brotherhood. The funds were then used to support the movement’s activities across the region. The trial is a further sign of the authorities’ ongoing efforts to clamp down on Islamist activity which it sees as a threat to its own security.
This outlook was also reflected in remarks on social media on 3 January made by Dubai’s deputy police chief, Dhahi Khalfan, that were critical of Morocco’s Government, which is affiliated with the Brotherhood. Khalfan has often been used as a mouthpiece for senior royals and so his remarks further indicate the UAE’s hardline stance against the regional influence of Islamists.
The Government’s uncompromising approach toward Islamist activity is also highlighted by its participation in the US-led air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq and the presence of foreign bases in the country, which has made the country an appealing target for jihadists. The authorities’ sustained efforts at restricting the activities of Islamist-affiliated individuals and groups will further increase the threat of militant attacks in the Emirates. Specifically, there is an ongoing risk of unsophisticated attacks by returned fighters or radicalised IS sympathisers, such as the assailant in the killing of the American school teacher Ibolya Ryan on 1 December. Such incidents would likely target foreign military